Home Office Organization Part 2: Organizing Vital Records

Another component to having your home office organized is keeping all of your vital records organized, easily accessible, and in a safe place.  Some people recommend keeping these important records and files in a separate file box with a handle so that in the case of an emergency you can easily grab these documents.

There are 3 main steps to getting your vital records organized:

1.  Make Copies

About once a year, make a copy of all the credit and ID cards you carry around. Place as many cards as will fit on the screen, photocopy or scan, and then flip the cards over and do the other side. Don’t forget medical insurance,voter registration, and your passport.  I sure wish I had extra copies of my license, passport, and credit cards when I had my purse stolen during a trip to Spain after college.  That is why it is also important to have a free credit report done each year.  It sort of helps me ease my mind that there isn’t some weirdo running around using my identity in a foreign country!

Get your free annual credit report by going to: https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp

2.  Create A Master list of all your accounts

(Savings, checking and credit card, as well as investment and insurance records)
Millions of dollars go unclaimed every year because people lose track of their holdings. Write down every bank, credit card, investment and insurance account you have. For each, list the institution, type of account (checking? money market?), owner or policyholder (you? you and a relative?), account number and contact information. You could also add frequent flier accounts, computer access codes and any other key passwords to this document.

3.  Create A Safe-deposit-box inventory

Make a list of all of the critical documents (marriage license, birth certificate, stocks and bonds) that you’ve stored under lock and key. Photocopy or scan the documents for your household files.

Once you have completed these three steps, it would be a good idea to put a copy of these documents in your safe-deposit box and also give a copy to a trusted friend, family member, or your attorney.

How Long Should You Keep Your Vital Records?

When you are purging your records it is important to know what you should be saving, and for how long. Here is a list to help you make those decisions.

Marriage records should be kept forever.

Birth records should be kept forever.

Death records should be kept forever.

Divorce records should be kept forever.

Estate plan documents should be kept forever. A copy of these documents should also be given to the person named as the executor of your estate.

Insurance policies should be kept for as long as the policy remains active. Once the policy has expired, it is only necessary to keep the last statement as proof that the policy existed.

Your family’s medical information Explanation Of Benefit forms from your insurance company should be kept for one year. If you file a claim for payment of benefits, the related EOB should be kept forever with all other documents and notes related to the claim. The best way to organize your family’s medical information is in a medical journal.  You can create your own or even buy one:



Receipts for large purchases should be kept as long as you own the product.

Warranty paperwork should be kept as long as you own the product.

Bank, retirement or investment account statements should be kept forever. If an annual summary is sent, keep the summary and purge the individual statements for that year.

Income tax records should be kept for 7 years.

Mortgage records should be kept for the life of the mortgage.

Paycheck stubs should be kept for one year. Discard the stubs when you receive your Form W2 or other annual summary and have verified that all information is correct.

Finally, if your wallet ever disappears, here are some numbers that will come in handy:
To report lost or stolen cards, contact:
Visa (800-VISA-911)
American Express (800-441-0519)
MasterCard (800-307-7309
Then register for fraud alert with the three credit bureaus:
Equifax (800-525-6285)
Experian (888-EXPERIAN)
TransUnion (800-680-7289)
If you read this far, then you will find out a little secret…Do I have all of these things done with my documents?  Heck no, but I have it on my calendar to work on it two days in August when the kiddos start back to school 🙂

3 thoughts on “Home Office Organization Part 2: Organizing Vital Records

  1. Pingback: 10 Tips for an Organized 2013 | Ducks in a Row Organizing

  2. Pingback: Confessions of a Binder Hoarder | Ducks in a Row Organizing

  3. Pingback: 10 Tips To An Organized 2014 | Ducks in a Row Organizing

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